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WW1 Private Robert William Gray (49705)

Friday, September 06, 2019

Robert William Gray (49705) was born on the 10 June 1895 in Cambridge to Elizabeth and William Gray of ‘Monavale, Cambridge. The family subsequently moved to 203 Remuera Road, Remuera, Auckland.

Robert was classed as medically unfit and was not accepted for military service when he first applied in May 1915, but he was accepted on his second attempt on 24th February 1917. He was 23 years old, 6ft tall, with blue eyes and brown hair, and was farming in Cambridge. He sailed on 16 August 1917 on the vessel ‘Willochra as a Private with the 26th Reinforcements, Auckland Infantry Regiment, A Company with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. On reaching England, Robert was stationed at the training camp at Sling, then in October 1917, he was sent to the Somme in France. Whilst there, in May 1918, he contracted mumps and on recovery, he was returned to his unit on the Somme in France where on 6 September 1918, he was wounded on his right side and abdomen. [1]  

By early September 1918, the British First, Third and Fourth armies had pushed the German forces on the Somme back to the Hindenburg Line. As the Third Army followed the retreating Germans, the New Zealand Division mopped up a succession of rear guards. They fought their way through Havrincourt Forest and Gouzeaucourt Wood before reaching Trescault Ridge. This position was part of a chain of enemy outposts and strong points screening the Hindenburg Line, just 4 km to the east. The New Zealand Division, weakened from its efforts at Bapaume, struggled to advance on Trescault Spur, an offshoot of the main ridge. After two days of bloody fighting the New Zealanders were relieved and moved back to Bapaume to rest, before the offensive against the Hindenburg Line. [2] 

On 16 September 1918 in France. Robert died of his wounds. Robert was awarded the Western European medal 1917-1918, British War Medal and Victory Medal. He is buried at the Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt, Somme, France (V.F.23)  

He is remembered in New Zealand on the following memorials: 

• Cambridge War Memorial, Queen Street, Cambridge 

• Cambridge Cenotaph, Victoria St, Cambridge 

• Cambridge World War One War Memorials 

• Hautapu RSA Memorial 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, Leamington, Cambridge 

 References 

1. Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph

2. New Zealand History Online https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/western-front-1918 

 Image References 

1. Gray R W Private. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. Auckland Weekly News -19190130-41-4

2. Cambridge Cenotaph, 1914-1918, Victoria St, Cambridge.  Image provided by John Halpin 2016. Auckland War Memorial Museum.

GDR